Ducks look to fill void
EUGENE — Oregon does not have to replace Dylan Ennis because he played only 21 minutes this season, but the Ducks will have to find players to give them what they expected Ennis to provide this season.
The senior transfer from Villanova missed the first 12 games of the season with a stress fracture in his foot and was declared out for the season on Wednesday after playing limited minutes in only two games off the bench. Ennis, who averaged 9.9 points per game as a starter last season with the Wildcats, was expected to be Oregon’s starting point guard this season.
“We just have to adjust again like when he wasn’t there at the beginning of the season,” freshman guard Tyler Dorsey said. “I’m sad because I wanted to play with him and this is his last year. We have to come together as a team. Other players have to step up. It is what it is without Dylan.”
Combined with freshman Trevor Manuel deciding to transfer this week, Oregon is down to nine scholarship players, four below the NCAA maximum. Dorsey and Casey Benson are the starting guards with freshman Kendall Small the only other player in the backcourt.
Small had an assist and a rebound in 12 minutes during Wednesday’s 68-65 win over California. The only scholarship player who did not take the floor was 6-foot-10 freshman Roman Sorkin, who has played a total of 60 minutes in 10 games this season.
“Kendall is going to have to step up and Roman (Sorkin) is going to have to step up,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “We have nine guys on scholarship now so those guys have to play. We have to really get focused. I thought Kendall played really well, His defense helps us, his activity helps us. He’s the quickest guy we’ve got.”
Small has played in every game for Oregon (12-3, 1-1) and has 41 points, 19 rebounds, 17 assists and 14 steals while playing an average of 11.3 minutes.
“I am adjusting to it,” Small said. “I am getting into my role and getting more comfortable as every game goes by. Waiting my turn and I will be ready when I get in.”
Altman has compared Small to Johnathan Loyd, a speedy point guard who pushed the pace in the coach’s first four years with the Ducks.
“I have to bring energy to the floor and do my best when I am out there,” Small said. “Go out there with my team and play hard and try to get a win.”
Dorsey, a freshman, ranks second on the team with 14.8 points per game to go with 4.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists while playing nearly 30 minutes per game. He will need to keep playing big minutes without Ennis.
“I’d rather have Dylan since the start of the year and have a deep team,” Dorsey said. “Have a lot of players to rotate out. When you have a deep team nobody gets tired and everyone puts all their effort on the court.”
The Ducks will have to do that now with a short-handed roster.
“It is just coming with the flow,” Dorsey said. “Coach says all the time that it might be somebody different in the next game and it is just playing as a team and coming together and moving the ball on offense.”
Ennis has been a coach on the bench since the start of the season and will continue in that role.
“I absolutely want him around,” Altman said. “He’s welcome here with our program. I just want to make sure he stays in class and does a great job there. This summer he can decide if he wants to pursue the pros right away or wants us to pursue an extra year for him.”
Ennis, a graduate transfer, could appeal for a sixth year of eligibility, but usually that is granted if a player misses two seasons due to injury. Ennis sat out his second year of college after he transferred from Rice to Villanova.
“We’ll investigate everything,” Altman said.